In the latter years of the Shuttle program, it became more and more difficult to find astronaut crews to fill the cockpit for generic flight controller training sims. This was understandable, as the astronaut office was shrinking, and those staying around for the post-shuttle era were spending more and more time training in Russia. The training organization therefore recruited experienced instructors, flight controllers, and a couple of Flight Directors to act as crews for these all-day training sessions. We called ourselves the “Astro-NOT” corps. I enjoyed spending the day in “the box” as much as I did being in the control center, so I served as the CDR quite a few times. This picture was taken on a historic day – the last-ever Generic Free Flight simulation.

Generic Free flights were an opportunity for the systems flight controllers to get hammered with more complex failure cases than could be scripted when there were timeline objectives (like a rendezvous) to be accomplished. Basically, the sim team could script just about anything they wanted to harass the systems guys, because they didn’t need to pull punches to make sure the timeline was attainable. These sims often ended in emergency de-orbits and other fun stuff. One of the fun parts of being the CDR rather than sitting in the control center as Flight was that I didn’t have to work as hard (most of the time). The purpose was, after all, to train flight controllers, not show how fast we could solve things ourselves in the cockpit, so there was a little lag pursuit built into our work.

I am afraid I don’t remember much about the script that day, but I do remember how enjoyable it was to sit with fellow “Astro-NOT”, and former MMACS team member Kevin McCluney as my PLT. Kevin was comfortable in the right seat, because that’s where the APU switches were. Kevin was my first Mech 1 when I trained and flew as an Ascent/Entry MMACS, and knew more about the APU’s and hydraulics than I ever would. It was fun to close out an era with him – and all the other Astro-NOTs on the team.

Iron Flight

Paul F. Dye